by Micil Glennon
ALLIANZ HL DIVISION 1A
Kilkenny v Waterford, Nowlan Park, 2pm
The All-Ireland champions find themselves at the bottom of the table after rare back-to-back competitive defeats.
Generally, the rule is that if you catch Brian Cody’s men on an off day, you won’t do it again.
Even though there was only a point in it against Tipp, by Kilkenny’s standards, that’s not good enough.
Cody doesn’t do panic but he’d find it hard to contemplate three defeats on the trot and, in front of their home fans, there will surely be a predictable response from the Cats.
He told the Kilkenny people: “We want to make the semi-finals and we can still do it. We haven't thrown in the towel.”
Waterford arrive in Nowlan Park unbeaten and will have mixed feelings after their draw with Cork last weekend.
Leading by eight at the break, they required two late scores to come away with a point in horrendous weather conditions in Dungarvan.
And manager Michael Ryan knows his team will face some sort of backlash from the table-propping Cats.
“Kilkenny always go out with the right attitude, that is why they are the champions...they will go out to win,” he told The Irish Sun, somewhat diplomatically.
Noel Connors (ankle) is sidelined, while Richie Foley will miss the whole league campaign with yet another hip injury.
A Cats team, with absolutely no sense of humour, losing three in a row? I don’t think so.
Galway v Tipperary, Pearse Stadium, 2pm
After a first-round win over All-Ireland champions Kilkenny, Galway’s gallop was halted by a determined Clare side in Ennis last weekend.
Selector Tom Helebert has targeted scoring from play as an area the Leinster champions need to improve on. So far, 60% of their scores have come from free pucks.
“We have a dependency on placed balls. It’s something we are trying to get away from because we need four or five lads getting scores from play every day,” Helebert said in the Irish Daily Star.
Tipperary were ambushed by Cork on the opening night, suffering a 12-point loss in Páirc Uí Rinn.
However, the Premier County upped their game considerably to edge a battle with Kilkenny on Sunday last, 2-17 to 1-19.
Lar Corbett rolled back the years to poach a stylish goal and John O’Dwyer’s fortuitous header ended up being the difference between victory and defeat.
Padraic Maher stood out for the Munster men and Corbett looked hungrier than he has in quite some time.
Manager Eamon O’Neill described the performance as a “good step along the way”.
Seamus Callanan, James Woodlock, Shane Bourke and captain Shane McGrath are all due to come in to the starting line-up.
The visitors may feel they have slightly move to prove – that last week wasn’t a flash in the pan – and be more determined to demonstrate that the hurling pecking order hasn’t changed just because of last year.
ALLIANZ HL DIVISION 1B
Carlow v Offaly, O’Connor Park, 2pm
After the opening-round defeat to Dublin, Offaly manager Ollie Baker spoke of the need to turn decent performances into results.
So the Clare man would have extremely satisfied that were able to apply the coup de gras after getting on terms with Wexford late on in O’Connor Park last Sunday.
Freezing conditions and a sticky pitch in Tullamore meant that the standard of hurling never reached any great heights but the home side timed their surge well to finish two points ahead.
Shane Dooley, who hit 68% of the scores against Dublin, failed to register from play but his team-mates stepped up to the plate and tallied 69% against the Slaneysiders.
Baker starts Birr’s Sean Ryan at corner-forward, while six of the named substitutes have never played a league game.
Carlow are nought from two after falling short against Wexford and encountering a Limerick side who were never really going to get caught out after a first-round fright against Antrim.
That said, John Meyler’s men out-hurled the Treaty men in the early stages but were left to rue the concession of three first-half goals.
Shane Kavanagh (0-09, 7f) top-scored and has the potential to keep the Barrowsiders in touch from placed balls.
Limerick’s subsequent win and performance against the in-form Dubs suggests that last year’s 2A winners are not a million miles away from upsetting a more established team somewhere along the line.